Saturday's state cross country race will look and feel much different than in year’s past — but following a season of socially distanced races, cross country runners across the Pikes Peak region are ready for another challenge on the state’s biggest stage.
The event at the Norris Penrose Event Center will kick off at 9:45 a.m. with the Class 4A boys’ race. Class 4A girls’ will follow, then 3A races will run, followed by a unified race, Class 2A, and the event will conclude with 5A.
Due to El Paso County regulations, stadium seating inside the event center will be closed off to spectators, and runners will begin in waves to limit the number of competitors on the course at once. With that in mind, official results will not be as immediate as year’s past and times may need to be compared to officially declare place-winners.
Here’s a class-by-class breakdown of Pikes Peak runners competing:
Rampart’s Ben Conlin and Pine Creek’s Caleb Boutelle will each begin in Wave 1 as the only local qualifiers in the 5A boys’ race.
Both seniors, Conlin and Boutelle will look to take one last stab at a top state finish. Currently, Boutelle is ranked sixth in Colorado with a season PR of 15:25.02, achieved last week as he won the 5A Region 5 championships.
Conlin is ranked in the top 20 with a season PR of 15:46.07. A week after earning his personal record Conlin returned to Monument Valley Park for the Region 5 championships and ran a 16:02 behind Boutelle.
The Pine Creek girls’ team qualified six runners led by Lauren Boutelle, Caleb’s sister, who placed second at the 5A Region 5 championships with a time of 19:39.39. Rampart’s Mollie Roden, who also qualified for the 5A state race, placed fourth at the region championships in 19:54.93. Pine Creek’s Madelyn Blazo, Kayla Anderson, Makala Jaramillo, Emma Wilhelm and Natalie Buchanan will also compete this weekend following a team win at regionals to qualify as a team.
The 4A girls’ race will feature four local teams, as Air Academy, Cheyenne Mountain, Lewis-Palmer and Palmer Ridge have all qualified as a team for the state championships.
Air Academy freshman phenom Bethany Michalak will look to make a splash in her first state championship race. Last time on the course at Norris Penrose Event Center she claimed the top freshman girls’ time nationally at 17:27.5 and is currently ranked fourth in Colorado thanks to that time. The only other 4A runner ranked that high is Samantha Blair of Eagle Valley, who is ranked second.
Air Academy’s Ella Chura, Brooke Moss, Olivia Novy, Chloe Fair and Zoe Lachnidt will join Michalak on the course as the Kadets qualified as a team.
With a second-place finish behind Air Academy at the 4A Region 2 championship, Palmer Ridge qualified its six runners. Maren Busath, who ran a 19:51.2 to place sixth at the regional in Northglenn, will lead the Bears, while Melanie Sauter, Jenna Baker, Nichole Smith, Madison Inscoe and Samantha DeGennaro have also qualified from Palmer Ridge.
Lewis-Palmer’s Aubrey Surage has the second-fastest local time this year (18:13.6), ranked 19th in Colorado as she enters the state championships. She is chased by teammate Jade Allen, who is third among local race times with a season record of 18:26.6.
The Rangers also qualified as a team for the championship race and will also send Emma Thomas, Samantha Wees, Olivia Lampros and TianYu Melzer to Norris Penrose.
Cheyenne Mountain also qualified its girls’ team for the 4A state race, led by Hope Stark, who ran an 18:50.4 at Norris Penrose in September. Katherine Tewde, Lauren Raley, Carolyn Mason, Jade Leveille and Sage Nicholas will join Stark as Cheyenne Mountain aims for a team championship.
Individual qualifiers include Discovery Canyon’s Loren Linnenberger, Palmer’s Adele Havlick and Sophia Mena of Widefield.
In the 4A boys’ race, which is the first race on the docket, Cheyenne Mountain’s Erik Le Roux will look for his first state title following a season-best time of 15:48 on the state course at the Cheyenne Mountain Stampede last month. Cheyenne Mountain will also send Kaden Levings, Cedar Collins, Enzo Exton and Jack Warmack.
Also aiming for a title not far behind Le Roux is Palmer’s Scott Prieve, who last week ran a season-best 15:57 to win the 4A Region 2 championship. The Terrors qualified five other runners and will send Cisco Alvarez, Joe Lange, Brandon Bayer, Kamden Hernandez and Max Pearson.
Air Academy boys’ will also send six runners following a second-place finish at the 4A Region 2 race. Senior Alex Maline was the top Kadet across the line with a time of 16:22.9 at regionals. Ben Hodge, Ben and Nate Lumaye, Drew Braden and Stephen Varnier have also qualified with Air Academy.
Palmer Ridge, which won the team title at the Region 2 championships, led by Colby Schultz who earned a season-best time of 16:22.7 to place third at regionals. Jack Bach, who placed fifth, Lucas Bossinger, John Clawson, Nate Lee and Thomas Fry will compete with Palmer Ridge.
Individual qualifiers in the boys race include Nathan Pontious of Canon City, Zinabu Engstrom from Coronado and Asher Finch of Widefield.
The Classical Academy girls’ team will look for a second-straight state title this year with a deep roster of consistent and fast runners heading to Norris Penrose.
Led by last year’s second-place finisher Sawyer Wilson, TCA will send its team of Cassidy and Kennedy McDonald, Sophia Valentine, Alaina Bonacquista and Kyra Shaner.
But it is Florence senior Kylie Simhauser who could give Wilson and the Titans a run. Simshauser won the 3A Region 2 title in 18:54.7, and holds a season-best time of 19:35.5 from early September. Wilson’s season best is 18:44.1 from late August. Kennedy and Cassidy McDonald placed second and third, respectively at regionals, followed by four more TCA runners placing in the top 10.
Elizabeth, which placed third in team points at the Region 2 championships, will send all six runners, which include Ella Hedman, Maddy Ricker, Emily Gertie, Faith Paquette, Jaylee Van Arenam, Masen Loeks.
Harrison’s Ayauna Smith also qualified for the 3A race as an individual.
TCA holds the lone Pikes Peak region team contingent in the 3A boys’ race following a win at the 3A Region 2 championships, which featured all six Titan runners placing in the top 10. Freshmen Matthew Edwards and David Ahnfeldt led TCA by placing fourth and fifth, respectively. Chandler Wilburn, Nathaniel Brim, Ryan Flaherty and Will Moore will round out the 2020 Titan state team.
Henry Ilyasova of Manitou Springs, who placed second in the Region 2 race in 16:57.62, qualified as an individual.
The 2A boys’ race will feature five complete teams from across the Pikes Peak region with many locals ranked among the classification’s top times this season.
Peyton’s Joel Schluessler has the region’s top season record at 16:28.3. He placed third in the 2A Region 2 championship last week with a time of 17:57.91, followed by Nathan Schluessler in 18:02.91.
Both were bested by Ellicott’s Jodzuel Juarez, who qualified for state with a second-place region finish in 17:02.59.
The Schluesslers will be joined by teammates Josh Kearse, Joseph Dwyer and Riley Hadley thanks to a team win at the Region 2 championships.
Colorado Springs Christian placed third in the team race led by Grant Leigh’s eighth-place finish in 18:34.01 to help the Lions qualify as a team. Joshua Leisman, Coen Simpson, Grant Shupp and Josiah Wilson will also compete for CSCS.
Vanguard’s Matthew Campos, Josh Stein, Asher Stone, Aiden Clark and Santiago Calonje will race. Campos led the Coursers at regionals with a seventh-place finish in 18:28.32.
Colorado Springs School’s Orlando Monroy placed 13th at the Region 2 championships to qualify for states as an individual.
Last week St. Mary’s won the 2A Region 3 team title, led by Dylan Brush and Jackson Neppl, who placed second and third, respectively. Brush holds the area’s third-best season time among 2A competitors with his region time of 16:48.7. Neppl also ran a season-best time at regionals in 17:04.3. Lyndon Gotelaere, Jacob Limb and Alex Bodnar will also compete with the Pirates.
Thomas Maclaren placed third at the Region 3 race, following Ian Osko and Tim Kewley’s seventh and eighth-place finishes, respectively. They will be joined by Jay Wood, Jonathan Brown and Michael Brophy on the course this weekend.
The Colorado Springs Christian girls’ cross country team won their first region title since 1995 with four of five runners finishing in the top 13 to qualify as a team for the 2A state race. Elle Stevens will lead the Lions after a fourth-place finish at the Region 2 championships with a time of 21:13.06. Isabel Case, Sophia McGrath, Katie Christofferson and Maci Jones make up the CSCS 2020 state team.
Peyton’s Eowyn Dalbec won the Region 2 race more than 40 seconds ahead of the field with a time of 19:53.27. The Panthers qualified all five runners following a third-place finish at regionals. Cecilia Richardson, Natalie Hlatki, Christine Dalbec and Ryleigh Tunink have also qualified.
Vanguard’s Ella Johnson placed second behind Dalbec in 20:30.23 to earn a spot in the state race.
Jaylene Gutierrez-Hermosillo of Ellicott and Gabriele Hibbitts from Thomas Maclaren also qualified for state as individuals.